AIDS-drug-gouging hedge-douche reneges on promise to cut prices for Daraprim


Martin Shkreli, the hedge-fund douche-bro who hiked the price of an off-patent drug used by AIDS and cancer patients from $13.50 to $750, then promised to lower the prices after becoming the Most Hated Man on the Internet did no such thing, because he is a liar. Read the rest

Tinder swipes left on billboard that implies dating apps give you STDs

AIDS Healthcare Foundation billboard in West Hollywood

Tinder is not happy about an LA billboard campaign urging users of popular dating and hookup apps to get tested for sexually transmitted diseases, for free.

In a provocative LA area billboard campaign, The AIDS Healthcare Foundation takes aim at apps like Tinder and Grindr, and implies that people who use those services to connect with sexual partners are at a higher risk for diseases like chlamydia and gonorrhea.

A KCAL9 LA TV reporter reported that one of the billboards was put up just a few blocks from Tinder’s Beverly Boulevard headquarters.

Tinder sent a cease and desist letter to the AHF, demanding the billboards be taken down and arguing that they "falsely" associate the app "with the contraction of venereal diseases."

In the lawyergram, Tinder attorney Jonathan D. Reichman says the AHF billboard's "accusations are made to irreparably harm Tinder's reputation in an attempt to encourage others to take an HIV test offered by your organization."

Reichman says the campaign's "statements" are not based in science, and would not hold up to "critical analysis."

Tinder "strongly supports such testing," he adds, accusing AHF of false advertising, disparagement, libel and interference with Tinder's business. And them's lawsuitin' words.

The AHF sent out a press release today that links to various studies and an article in Vanity Fair to bolster their dubious claim of “rising STD rates found among users of popular dating or “hookup” mobile phone apps.”

In their announcement, the AHF also detailed the responses by Tinder and Grinder:

Within two hours of the billboard posting in Los Angeles (the only market where the boards are currently posted), Grindr, another of the apps highlighted in the campaign, cut off AHF’s paid advertising for its free STD testing services on the site.

Read the rest

Second Avenue Caper: When Goodfellas, Divas, and Dealers Plotted Against the Plague

In Second Avenue Caper: When Goodfellas, Divas, and Dealers Plotted Against the Plague, "Ray" recounts his brave, quixotic, tragicomic adventures as an experimental AIDS drug smuggler who funded his operation by selling weed out of his New York apartment, during the early years of the "gay plague." It's a strangely fitting subject for a graphic novel, and Joyce Brabner and Mark Zingarelli graphic novel make it work as a history book that'll make you laugh and cry. Cory Doctorow reviews.

"The Mississippi Baby" wasn't cured of HIV after all

A child, treated for HIV infection at birth and reported as possibly being cured of the virus, is showing signs of infection at age 4. Read the rest

HIV returns in two men thought to have been "cured"

Last summer, researchers in Boston announced that they had two patients, men who had battled HIV for years but who now appeared to be virus free. The men had received a treatment similar to that of Timothy Ray Brown, the "Berlin Patient". Like Brown, the men had cancer and had received radiation and chemotherapy treatments followed by bone marrow transplants. But there were some key differences. Brown's radiation and chemo regimes were much harsher, for one thing. For another, his new bone marrow came from a donor with the CCR5-delta32 mutation, which seems to provide natural resistance to HIV infection. The Boston men got their new bone marrow from donors who did not have that mutation.

Nevertheless, both men had seen their viral loads fall to undetectable levels. They hit the news in July after being off of antiretroviral drugs for seven and 15 weeks, respectively, with no return of the virus. Unfortunately, the virus re-emerged in one of the two men the very next month. It re-emerged in the other man in November. Read the rest

RIP Stephen Crohn: The man AIDS couldn't kill

Stephen Crohn lost a boyfriend and many friends to AIDS before realizing that there must be something different about him that kept him from contracting HIV. He eventually became one of the key patients that helped scientists discover the delta32 mutation — a very rare genetic anomaly that makes a person immune (as far as we know) to HIV. Crohn died on August 23rd. His family has said the death was a suicide. Read the rest

Critic of AIDS denialist needs help with Texas defamation lawsuit

Clark Baker, an "AIDS denialist" who plays hardball with his critics -- for example, calling a critic's elderly mother and saying that, as an ex-police-officer, it is his opinion that her son was a violent criminal who might murder her in her sleep -- can dish it out but can't take it.

Baker operates a consultancy that helps people who have HIV and have unprotected sex escape from the legal consequences of their recklessness. His professional service involves appearing in court and arguing that HIV is not the cause of AIDS.

Understandably, this draws firm and impassioned criticism. One critic, J. Todd Deshong of Texas, is now the target of a lawsuit by Baker and his attorney, Mark Weitz of Weitz Morgan PLLC in Austin, Texas. They have brought suit against Deshong for "trademark infringement, defamation, "business disparagement," and for injunctive relief."

As Ken at Popehat points out, this is without legal merit. But nuisance suits can be ruinously expensive, and if you're a deep-pocketed pseudoscientist-for-hire whose career as an AIDS denialist depends on silencing critics who point out the obvious holes in your scientific reasoning, then no price is too high when it comes to frivolous litigation.

Mr Deshong needs help from members of the Texas bar and supporters around the world who can come to his aid and defend his right to participate in vigorous debate over important, life-or-death issues without this sort of litigious harassment.

Todd Deshong needs help. He's being sued for attacking junk science; he's being sued by the sort of loathsome nutter who threatens the mothers of critics.

Read the rest

Living with HIV in middle age

At The New York Times, John Leland has a moving portrait of people who accepted their own inevitable deaths two decades ago ... and then those deaths didn't happen. Kept alive by HIV-fighting medications, they've watched the disease go from death sentence to little-discussed chronic illness — all while dealing with the not-inconsiderable side effects of both the virus, itself, and the medications used to treat it. Read the rest

Interview with the Berlin Patient

Timothy Ray Brown (aka, The Berlin Patient) is the first person to go from being HIV+ to HIV-. Usually, he's described as the first person to be cured of AIDS. Scientists are a bit more circumspect about the situation. Brown got a bone marrow transplant using marrow donated by a person whose body has natural resistance to HIV. That was in 2005. Now off of anti-retroviral drugs, Brown's HIV has (so far) not returned. Two other men have been through the same treatment with promising results, although they are still taking anti-retroviral drugs, so it's impossible to say yet whether they are also actually HIV-.

Even if this is a cure, it is not the world's most widely applicable cure. Yet. But it is very interesting and, obviously, an amazing story.

I've never heard Timothy Ray Brown speak before, so I wanted to post this interview video from Democracy Now. It probably won't add much to the story that you didn't already know, but it's powerful to see the guy, himself, talking about it.

Via Samal Coff

PREVIOUSLY Why one mutation can protect people from HIVAIDS research done by 17-year-olds: Day 2 at AAAS 2012Why we can't say HIV is curedIf AIDS has been cured, why is the victory party so small? Read the rest

Why one mutation can protect people from HIV

We've talked here before about the importance of the protein CCR5 in HIV/AIDS treatment research. CCR5 is a protein on the surface of immune cells. Some people have a genetic mutation, called Delta-32, which alters how that protein works, how often it appears, or changes its structure. People with the mutation have immunity to some strains of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

CCR5 is the key to the Berlin Patient—Timothy Ray Brown—who, until recently, was the only person to ever be cured of AIDS. Brown received bone marrow transplants from people who had the Delta-32 mutation. His body has been HIV-free for five years. And, last week, researchers announced that two other people successfully received the same treatment.

But here's the thing, until today, I didn't totally understand how the connection between CCR5, Delta-32, and HIV worked. There's a story (and some great digital illustrations) on NPR's Shots blog that makes the situation much more clear. HIV, apparently, have little spikes all over its surface. These spikes are how the virus injects itself into cells.

When it bumps into a T cell, a finger-like projection on the cell's surface, called CCR5, pushes down on the spike. This interaction pops open the HIV and releases the infectious genes into the cell. A gene therapy could protect T cells by inactivating the CCR5 gene.

Great "A-ha!" moment for me. Read the rest of the story and look at the illustrations. It'll make some thing make a lot more sense.

Read the rest at NPR's Shots blog

PREVIOUSLY: If AIDS Has Been Cured, Why is the Victory Party So Small? Read the rest

AIDS research done by 17-year-olds: Day 2 at AAAS 2012

It's that time again. Maggie is back at the largest science convention in the Western Hemisphere for four days of wall-to-wall awesomeness. Each day, she'll tell you about some of the cool things she learned watching scientists from all over the world talk about their work. Check the bottom of each post to find links to earlier posts in this series!

Fifteen years ago, Dr. Harry Kestler got a call from a colleague in Florida who had inadvertently stumbled across a very unique family. An African-American woman had brought her sick child into the hospital only to discover that the child was HIV-positive and experiencing symptoms of AIDS. Further tests showed that she, herself, had HIV. As did four of her five children. It was a family tragedy. But in the midst of that, Kestler's colleague had noticed something odd.

The woman knew how she must have been infected—her ex-husband had been an intravenous drug user. But that had been more than 20 years ago. She, and her oldest child, had had HIV for over two decades without developing any symptoms. And her second-oldest child—who shared the same father—wasn't infected with HIV at all.

I've written here before about long-term non-progressors—a rare class of people who can be infected with HIV and live for decades without the virus ever developing into anything serious. Their secret: mutations in their genes that prevent HIV from binding to cells, which means it can't invade the cells or replicate.

Yesterday at the American Association for the Advancement of Science conference, I visited the student poster session, a place where undergraduate college students present research projects they're involved in and compete against one another to earn their poster a spot in an upcoming issue of the journal Science. Read the rest

Madonna's cautionary AIDS comic, handed out at a 1987 concert

From Ethan Persoff's ongoing chronicles of vintage weird ephemera: COMICS WITH PROBLEMS #7 - MADONNA ON AIDS. This public health pamphlet was handed out at one of her concerts, one night only, in 1987. Her image appears on the cover, and inside, a handwritten note urging for greater awareness of AIDS and an end to prejudice against those who contract it (or who are HIV-positive). Read the rest

Playing games to fight HIV

A couple of years ago, I told you about Foldit, a computer game that harnesses the power of human putzing to help scientists unravel the mysteries of protein structure. There's a new research paper out that uses results from Foldit as a basis for a new proposed structure of a key protein in a virus that is a relative of HIV.

As important as proteins are, we know relatively little about how and why these complex chains of amino acids fold and twist the way they do and how that structure relates to function. Foldit takes advantage of the fact that, given the right rules, people can come up with possible, plausible protein structures far faster than a computer program can factor out all the possible permutations. And that's why Foldit players—citizen scientists of a sort—were so useful in this case. Ed Yong at Not Exactly Rocket Science explains:

They discovered the structure of a protein belonging to the Mason-Pfizer monkey virus (M-PMV), a close relative of HIV that causes AIDS in monkeys. These viruses create many of their proteins in one big block. They need to be cut apart, and the viruses use a scissor enzyme –a protease – to do that. Many scientists are trying to find drugs that disable the proteases. If they don’t work, the virus is hobbled – it’s like a mechanic that cannot remove any of her tools from their box.

To disable M-PMV’s protease, we need to know exactly what it looks like.

Read the rest